- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

From combined dispatches
BAGHDAD Iraq reserves the right to end cooperation with U.N. weapons inspections if it deems Washington is manipulating them, the Iraqi inspections chief said yesterday, clouding prospects of the high-stakes U.N. missions before they even resume.
The Iraqi warning made in the face of threatened U.S. military action raises the possibility that old problems would haunt any new U.N. inspections to ensure Iraq can no longer produce weapons of mass destruction.
Trying to stave off a new U.S. attack over what Washington says are covert weapon programs, Iraq has dropped objections to the inspectors' return, and says it hopes to see an advance team back as soon as Oct. 19.
Asked if Iraq reserves the right to again revoke cooperation with inspectors, Iraqi inspections chief Gen. Hussan Mohammed Amin told the Associated Press: "Of course."
"We gave commitments to cooperate, if they said they will follow scientific and logical measures for inspections, and will not misuse them for spying, collecting information," Gen. Amin said, speaking inside a walled industrial complex where Washington asserts nuclear weapons work could be under way.
"If they will follow scientific measures, and they will take measures from the United Nations and not the United States, they should come on the date," he said.
An adviser to President Saddam Hussein sent a letter to U.N. weapons inspectors Friday saying Iraq was ready to remove all obstacles to a return of inspectors after a nearly four-year break.
"We assert our complete readiness once again to receive the advance team on October 19 as per our preliminary agreement with you and our readiness to resolve all issues that may block the road to our joint cooperation," wrote Gen. Amir al-Saadi.
The new letter to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, acknowledges their desire for "unfettered access" to eight controversial palace sites of Saddam's, but makes no specific concession on the issue.
The letter does suggest a new flexibility on allowing inspectors to interview Iraqis and to make flights over Iraqi territory. But it seemed far from likely to satisfy U.S. demands for unconditional acceptance of inspections. Washington dismissed an earlier Iraqi letter this week as evasive.
Iraq's vice president said in an interview yesterday that Baghdad was ready to allow weapons inspectors to visit the presidential palaces.
"The inspectors can search and inspect however and wherever they would like," Taha Yassin Ramadan told the German magazine Der Spiegel. It was not clear whether he meant Iraq was now willing to abandon past procedural restrictions on palace access.
Reacting to Mr. Ramadan's comments, a Bush administration official said Iraq appeared to have "three different positions" on access to the palaces. "There will be no negotiations with the Iraqis," the official told Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, some 500 Iraqi Muslim clerics and scholars meeting in Baghdad issued an edict urging Muslims everywhere to begin a holy war to "burn the earth under the feet" of the United States if it attacked Iraq.
"If, God forbid, the aggression takes place, declaring Jihad against the evil American administration is the duty of every able Muslim," their edict, or fatwa, said, adding that this should include enlisting to fight alongside Iraq, striking U.S. interests and announcing economic boycotts of the United States and its allies.
The Iraqi parliament held an emergency session yesterday at which Foreign Minister Naji Sabri briefed legislators "on the dimensions of the rude American threats to launch a new aggression," on U.S. efforts to pass a new U.N. resolution, and on arms inspections, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) said.
A statement by the assembly made no mention of the standoff over inspections, but denounced recommendations by the U.S. Congress that Jerusalem be identified as Israel's capital.
For the second time in three days, Iraqis threw open another U.S.-targeted site to Western and Iraqi camera crews and reporters. Iraqi generals called it proof of their eagerness to show the world Iraq is innocent of U.S. accusations.
Anti-aircraft guns, trenches and sandbags surrounded the Al-Furat site newly fortified against what Iraq fears will be imminent U.S. air strikes, plant director Gen. Sa'adi Abbas Khudeir said.
He said the workers were civilian and military researchers, laboring on peaceful electronics research and on weapons systems allowed by the United Nations.
"Believe me, no nukes, no physicists, no program just programs that serve the army, maintenance and development, that's all," he said, pointing to equipment.


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